Does buying a car with anti-lock brakes mean I won't be able to do my own brake repair?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have been a do-it-yourselfer for many years now. None of the cars I presently own has anti-lock brakes. But I will have to buy a new car soon, and most of the cars I am considering come with ABS. I have noticed in my shop manuals that for cars with ABS, they always refer to "special equipment" needed to bleed the brake systems. Does this mean that I won't be able to work on my brakes anymore? Does the word "special" mean "expensive"? -- Dave

TOM: Your interpretive skills are superb, Dave!

RAY: Actually, you'll still be able to work on your brakes, Dave. Most of the brake parts are exactly the same; the pads, discs and calipers are exactly what you're used to.

TOM: The only difference would be if you opened the hydraulic system. While most cars with ABS can be bled the normal way -- by opening up the bleeders and pumping the brake pedal -- some ABS-equipped cars can be hooked up to a special (read: expensive) machine and be bled "automatically."

RAY: The machine will actually activate the ABS pump, which, in effect, "pumps the brake pedal" for you. And that's a nice convenience -- especially if you're working alone.

TOM: But even on the cars we've seen where this is an option, it's not required. So you can still bleed them the old-fashioned way if you want to.

RAY: Of course, there might be some cars with ABS that can't be bled normally, but we have yet to see one in our shop.

TOM: So don't give up, Dave. I'm confident that -- in the comfort of your own driveway -- you have everything you need to screw up an ABS-equipped car just as easily as a non-ABS-equipped car.

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